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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Assumes Presidency of UN Disarmament Conference

By Lisa Schlein May 29, 2018

The United States on Tuesday walked out of the Conference on Disarmament to protest Syria's assumption of the rotating presidency of the 65-member U.N. body.

Before staging his walkout, U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood told journalists that handing the gavel of the presidency to Syria marked a sad and shameful day in the history of the conference. He called the development a travesty.

"This is a regime responsible for killing countless of its own civilians, many of whom have been impacted by chemical weapons attacks," Wood said. "This is no normal presidency and thus the U.S. will not treat it as such."

Not lost on the U.S. envoy was the irony that Syria had gassed its own people but was now assuming the presidency of an organization that negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention. Wood noted the chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7 was just another tragic example of Syria's disrespect for international law.

"It is important that the United States speak out against the crimes that have been committed by the regime in Damascus," Wood said. "We will do so. We hope that our other colleagues in the Conference on Disarmament will do the same. It is important that we hold this regime accountable for the crimes that it has committed, and the United States will not be silent."

The presidency automatically rotates every four weeks among its 65 members in English alphabetical order. Syria assumed the presidency following the end of Switzerland's four-week term.

Other countries joined the U.S. in voicing their disapproval. Israel's ambassador, Aviva Raz Shechter, walked out of the meeting, calling the situation "unacceptable." France downgraded its presence by not sending its envoy. Britain said it would not take part in the meeting.

Russia spoke up in support of its Syrian ally.

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